QB Phillip Ely back home to Tampa for Bucs' local workout
Phillip Ely waited four years in college for the chance to be back as a full-time starting quarterback, and as he works to extend his football career to the professional level, that journey brings him back to Tampa.
Ely, who led Plant High to state championships in 2008 and 2009, then was a backup quarterback on two national championship teams at Alabama in 2011 and 2012, will take part in the Bucs' predraft workout for local prospects on Friday, a chance for Ely to show he deserves a chance to be in an NFL camp this fall.
"In your hometown, it's a team you grew up loving -- it's every kid's dream to be in that kind of setting," Ely said. "I've trained hard, and this is an opportunity to showcase my skill set for a team like the Bucs to evaluate."
Ely won two national titles at Alabama, but did so largely on the sidelines -- he redshirted in 2011, threw only four passes as a backup in 2012, then redshirted in 2013 after deciding to transfer to Toledo. That opportunity to start came with Rockets in 2014, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the second game of the season. Back healthy this fall as a redshirt senior, he played well, throwing for 2,965 yards, with 23 touchdowns against only 10 interceptions in leading Toledo to a 10-2 record.
"I can't thank Toledo and that coaching staff enough," Ely said. "What a tremendous program. They really got me ready and turned me into the guy I am today. I owe a lot of thanks to Coach (Matt) Campbell and Coach (Jason) Candle for allowing me that opportunity to play."
Ely drew interest from the Bengals, Cowboys, Broncos, Chargers, Cardinals and Texans at his pro day -- he took the extra step of attending an NFL regional combine in Minneapolis before his pro day to get an extra chance to show his measurables and throw with other draft prospects. He's been training in Tampa at Performance Compound and has been training with former Storm quarterback John Kaleo and former Plant and Miami/Purdue quarterback Robert Marve.
The local predraft workout allows the Bucs to evaluate players not only for their draft, but for the rookie minicamp that follows May 6, so a strong showing there can help local players get a longer look to make the roster as an undrafted free agent.
Ely played under current Gators coach Jim McElwain at Alabama, and while he was stuck behind A.J. McCarron on the depth chart there, he said his time there in a championship atmosphere helped improve him as a player.
"People often ask me 'Do you ever regret going to Alabama and transferring?' and really I don't. I would make the same decision every time," he said. "At the time, it was the right choice for me. I met a lot of great guys, was coached by a lot of good coaches. Coach McElwain was my quarterback coach and the guy that really got me there. I loved it. I learned a lot and was around the elite of the elite."